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Moscow scolds Bulgaria over oil pipeline

MOSCOW, March 22 (UPI) -- The Bulgarian government is in part to blame for all-but shutting down plans for the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, a Russian energy executive said.

Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said in February that Moscow was interested in the project but had to suspend most of the work because of delays from Sofia.

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Bulgaria in 2007 signed an agreement with Russia and Greece to build the 174-mile oil pipeline to bypass crowded waterways near Turkey by crossing an overland route to the Aegean Sea.

Mikhail Barkov, a vice president at Russian pipeline company Transneft, was quoted by Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti as saying the project would be scaled down if Sofia doesn't take it seriously.

"If the Bulgarian side fails to treat the Burgas-Alexandroupolis positively, and does not adopt a positive environmental assessment for the oil pipeline, there will be a decision to put the company into a hibernation mode," he said.

Moscow claims the Bulgarian government owes about $10.3 million to the project consortium.

Bulgarian officials brushed off past threats from Moscow, however, saying the rhetoric was intended more as a negotiation tactic than as a statement of intent.

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